Ethiopia is facing a growing public health crisis of Acute Watery Diarrhoea (AWD), with a Menelik II Referral Hospital treatment centre admitting over 160 cases in the last two months. Despite the surge in patients with symptoms consistent with AWD, no official outbreak has been declared in the city. This lack of recognition is causing concern among physicians who believe public awareness is essential to managing patient flow and curbing the spread of the disease. While no cases have been confirmed in Addis Abeba, cholera has become a concern, with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA) reporting 15,685 confirmed cases and 189 deaths since August of the previous year. The rapid loss of fluids can lead to severe dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and hypovolemic shock, potentially proving fatal if left untreated.

Healthcare providers also deal with significant challenges, including a lack of equipment, shared medical equipment, and a critical shortage of personal protection equipment (PPE). These difficulties compound the struggle to deal with the influx of patients and maintain other critical clinical procedures. The AWD outbreak highlights Ethiopia's underlying socioeconomic issues. UNICEF data suggest that 60pc to 80pc of the country's health problems arise due to unsafe water supplies, unhygienic conditions, and poor waste disposal. The burden of AWD is heavy on those with limited resources, such as a mother in Minelik Hospital who worries about the affordability of her child's daily laboratory tests.

Experts urge the government to focus on public health measures. Mesfin Wossen, a public health emergency management coordinator at EPHI, has championed an awareness campaign on the dangers of AWD. Over four million doses of oral vaccines have been deployed in hotspot areas, providing water, sanitary products, and hygiene education. However, Adamu Addissie, an epidemiologist at Addis Abeba University, believes that declaring an outbreak would lead to better information dissemination on preventive measures, potentially decreasing the threat level. With a significant population density, Addis Abeba could face a substantial outbreak if preventive measures are not swiftly implemented. This situation underlines the necessity of focusing on public health threats, prioritising health over the fear of tainting the city's image.

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PUBLISHED ON Aug 05,2023 [ VOL 24 , NO 1214]

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